This weekend Formula One visits somewhere that was described as ‘the richest city in the world’ in 2007, and certainly is in the big league when it comes to finances – Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will leave Abu Dhabi as champion and second placed finisher in the 2014 Formula One World Championship – only their order hasn’t been decided just yet. We are guaranteed to see a different champion in F1 for the first time since 2010, and the result will either place Rosberg as the third German to win a championship, or it will elevate Lewis Hamilton to the proud position of winning the world championship on multiple occasions. We’ll have to wait and see.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was announced in 2008, one year after a ‘Formula One Festival’ had taken place, and first appeared on the calendar in 2009.
The venue itself is one of the most modern circuits of all time, with all seats part of grandstands, and an extremely large amount of floodlights in order to hold a race at twilight.
Attention was attracted to the circuit by many things, but a unique feature of the track is having a pit lane exit that runs underneath the first turn – fortunately, no one has crashed in the tunnel so far! Additionally, it does mean that if you did an out lap followed by an in lap, you would have done a very weird figure of eight.
It does get criticised a lot for being flat, processional, and having many of the problems that many of the tracks show these days. But they drive under a hotel that lights up in different colours and Bernie says that the organisers can have the race for as long as they want it, so I guess we may as well get used to it.
Indeed, this year it not only has the privilege of hosting the season finale (last year, it hosted round 17), but controversially it also has the honour of being the only race worth double points. In short, it is now theoretically twice as important as any other regular season race, ever. If you’re a fan of that, I recommend the NASCAR finale from Sunday, because that could be where the concept will end up.
The lap begins with a slow corner followed by a series of fast corners into the exit of the first sector. This is marked by a chicane leading into a tight hairpin which sees the cars reach the lowest speed on the lap.
After this, the drivers go down one of the longest straights of the year, reaching around 320 kilometres per hour, before a quick chicane leads them to another straight (and DRS zone) followed by another chicane.
This final sector is often compared with Monaco due to the proximity of the walls, and it is also a little bit similar to the second and third sectors in Korea due to the speed. Once the drivers go under the hotel, it is a relatively simple fast two corners up to the line.
The lap record at the track is held by Sebastian Vettel at 1:40.279, and the track sees the drivers complete 68 gear changes per lap while spending 73% of that on full throttle. It is a high downforce track.
A Lap of Yas Marina with Lewis Hamilton:
Nico Rosberg was victorious last time out in Brazil, and realistically needs to win the race to stand a chance of taking the title. However, Lewis Hamilton has won more races this season, and there were certainly indications in the last race that he should’ve taken that one as well. If a mechanical failure hits one of them though, it’s game over, unsurprisingly.
Elsewhere, Ricciardo will be third in the championship, while Vettel, Alonso and Bottas are fighting for fourth place. Button and Massa will be squabbling over seventh place, with Hulkenberg potentially also in the mix. Eight points separate Magnussen in tenth and Perez in twelfth, with Raikkonen in between. At the back of the grid, Sauber and Caterham – amazingly – will be looking to score points to move them above Marussia, although that shouldn’t make a difference to their prize money relative to the Russian-registered team after all.
Yas Marina with Pirelli
The final grand prix of the season will take place in Abu Dhabi, using the soft and supersoft tyre: a step softer than last year’s nomination of medium and soft. Yas Marina is a circuit that Pirelli knows well, having completed some of its private testing there before entering Formula One back in 2011, with Abu Dhabi being a well-known venue for official tests as well.
This year is no exception, with the final two-day test of the season taking place straight after the grand prix, from Tuesday to Wednesday.
The track surface is quite smooth, featuring a variety of 90-degree corners. The other defining characteristic of the grand prix is that, like Bahrain, it starts in the late afternoon and ends in the evening – meaning that the track tends to cool down as the race goes on, which affects strategy.
This year double points are on offer, so the stakes are even higher and teams will be concentrating on strategy harder than ever, while prioritising a safe finish. The weather tends to be warm and dry, with the track well-suited to the supersoft and soft compounds: the fastest tyres in Pirelli’s range.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “It’s always a pleasure to return to Abu Dhabi and this year’s event will be even more significant than usual, with the drivers’ championship being decided and double points available. The strategy is normally greatly affected by the unusual track evolution, due to the falling temperatures caused by the late afternoon start. This was the case in Bahrain as well, which turned out to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the season earlier this year.
As a result, the free practice sessions will be particularly crucial, as the teams try to gather as much information as possible about how the car will perform on both compounds: not just with different fuel loads, but also with different track temperatures.
As so many points are on offer, there is a big opportunity for teams that have less to lose to try an unexpected strategy, in order to make some potentially significant gains.”
Jean Alesi, Pirelli consultant: “I’ve never driven a Formula One car in Abu Dhabi but I like the track, especially because of its high levels of safety and the long straight that provides a few overtaking opportunities, thanks also to the use of DRS. As the race starts at 5pm, with ambient and track temperatures gradually dropping, the ability to adapt to a changing situation is essential. These varying conditions affect tyre pressures too.
Having said that, the biggest stress for the drivers this year will be the fact that the race counts for double points. Even with his normally qui important point advantage, current Championship leader could see it all taken away from him by just a simple mistake.”
￼￼￼The circuit from a tyre point of view:
The supersoft tyre is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at a wide range of low temperatures. The soft tyre is a high working range compound. With the two softest compounds in the range and a smooth track surface, warm-up should not be an issue.
We can expect a certain degree of thermal degradation that could influence the strategies and the setup of the cars. The first and third free practice sessions are usually run in conditions that are not representative for qualifying and race due to much higher temperatures experienced during the day.
The first part of the circuit effectively consists of a series of non-stop bends, which heats up the tyre compound. The compound then gets a chance to cool down on the long straight, with the cars on full throttle for around 15 seconds, with the equivalent of around 800 kilograms of downforce.
To help gain maximum traction, the cars are often set up with quite a soft rear end at Abu Dhabi, but this can lead to increased rear tyre wear. If the set-up is too stiff at the back, the opposite problem can occur: excessive wheelspin, which also takes life out of the tyres.
The winning strategy last year was a two-stopper. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel started on the soft tyre, pitted for the medium on lap 14, then pitted again for the medium on lap 37 never losing the lead.
Yas Marina in 3D with Pirlelli
Yas Marina and Brembo
The same considerations which were made for the Bahrain circuit are also valid here, although the make up of the track leads to lower speeds and therefore less stress on the brakes. On this track the stress the braking system is subjected to is in any case quite significant and above average: here the drivers spend more than 18% of each lap with a foot on the brake.
The 13 braking sections are rather demanding and the heated pace and torrid climate, with their correlated effects of increased grip and stress, can create thermal dissipation problems as well as problems with friction material wear.
2009 – Polesitter Lewis Hamilton battled with Sebastian Vettel for the lead, with the German overtaking after the first pit stops. This was a contest that the Brit eventually lost due to retirement caused by a brake failure.
2010 – The championship battle headed to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the year, and the first lap saw Schumacher and Liuzzi collide, bringing out the safety car and allowing many cars to head into the pits for a change of tyres. Due to the durability of Bridgestone’s tyres, championship challengers Alonso and Webber were unable to gain any places without the cars in front pitting, which they declined to do, meaning that Vettel won his first ever world championship.
2011 – Effectively the opposite of 2009, with Vettel retiring due to a puncture and Lewis Hamilton going on to win the race.
2012 – Kimi Raikkonen won his first race since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, with Fernando Alonso having to settle for second ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who drove well through the field in order to maintain his championship lead.
2013 – Vettel won the race from Mark Webber, which equalled the record for most consecutive wins in a season.
Jolyon Palmer – him of potential Caterham fame, according to last week’s news – has wrapped up the GP2 title after a season including four victories, one of which came during the last race weekend in Russia. With 40 points on offer, the battle for second place in the championship is simply between 2015 Sauber recruit Felipe Nasr and McLaren programme driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who is guaranteed at least third place. Both drivers had a podium finish in the sprint race in Russia.
The GP3 series has also reached a similar stage, with Alex Lynn far enough ahead of everyone else to take the title. Mathematically, everyone from second to eighth has the possibility to finish second in the championship, although this battle is likely to come down to Dean Stoneman and Marvin Kirchhofer; the former currently having spent the most time on top of the podium this season after wins in Spain, Belgium, Italy and Russia.
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2010||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2009||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|